When a friend suggested walking a half marathon to Kevin Gonzalez in 2010, he wasn’t sure about the idea. A postal worker by day, Gonzalez had been a good runner in high school but was overweight now. He decided to walk the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon on a whim and finished in a little more than three hours. Since then, he’s walked more than 100 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series races, lost a lot of weight and aims to racewalk his way through the Marathon Majors. “Over the years, I’ve sort of fine-tuned the craft,” he says.
To get started walking your first race, here are some tips…
Practice your technique
Gonzalez racewalks, which is a specific kind of technique and style—like what you see in the Olympics. While Rock ‘n’ Roll races don’t have official racewalking judges, he still practices his technique, watches tapes to see how he can improve and competes against himself. But even if you just want to power walk, you still need to train and focus on your technique. Walking a race isn’t just a stroll in the park.
Prepare for a long day
Madora Mak, an event manager for Rock ‘n’ Roll, says, “Listen to your body.” That means bringing extra sunscreen, water and fuel to be ready to go the distance. It’s also important to be honest about what race corral you should start in, or you’ll end up blocking or being blocked by other athletes. Often, that means starting at the back so as not to get in the way. Mak notes you should be aware of cutoff times that can vary by course, but the follow vehicle behind the last athlete can move people forward on course if needed.
Do your thing
Have fun! Mak often sees groups of walkers taking advantage of the entertainment stops on course, listening to the bands and participating in activities like Snapchatting their favorite signs or taking selfies. “If you’re going to stop, shift to the side,” says Mak, leaving the middle of the road open for others on the move. Even if you plan to racewalk or walk competitively, the best way to achieve that is still to maintain your own pace and focus on yourself. “Race your race, not someone else’s,” says Gonzalez.
What is proper race etiquette?
- Start in the right corral for your pace, which may be the last one.
- Don’t walk four or five abreast.
- Be aware of your surrounding and other participants.
- Yield to those trying to pass you.
- Don’t stop suddenly, or people may run into you.
- Signal or call out to others, so they know if you want to pass or if you’re moving aside.